Dispatches from social media: 5 key trends in 2019

The world of social media is constantly evolving and at times can be completely unpredictable. Developments in technology, culture and customer behaviour can make it difficult to keep up with the most recent algorithm, newest platform or latest social craze. In such a volatile environment, the question of social media’s value in terms of effectiveness and business results is ever present. But despite this, it is possible to choose tactics and create content that can be vital in executing a brand strategy.

After attending the Hootsuite Social Breakfast, we’ve summarised 5 key trends that can keep your social strategy fresh, while still commercially valuable. You can read the full Hootsuite 2019 trends report here.

1 – Rebuilding Trust

Consumer trust in social media is declining following several high-profile scandals in 2018. Cambridge Analytica left people feeling highly concerned for the safety of personal data, fake profiles led to user purges across Twitter and Instagram, and fake news can no longer be distinguished in our feeds. These issues have resulted in a breakdown of trust between the public and social media – making it harder for brands to form genuine connections.

To rebuild trust, brands must now engage customers in a way that moves away from simple likes and clicks, providing truly interesting, relevant and well-researched content that provokes conversation and influences behaviour.

What should you do?

  • Audience-specific messaging and targeting
  • Utilise real customers, employees and internal experts as influencers
  • Provide live content that educates consumers
  • Bring passionate customers together in a social safe space

2 – Stories

72% of adults say their smartphone is their most important device for accessing the internet. So it’s no surprise that mobile-only content is seeing huge growth. What began with Snapchat’s innovative disruptor platform, allowing users to create ephemeral, in-the-moment vertical videos has soon become an integral feature in key player networks such as Instagram, Facebook and WhatsApp.

Stories are currently growing 15x faster than feed posts, providing users with visually striking content that’s native to their most used device. Offering a personal, genuine form of communication that is more experimental and fun than what is often allowed with feed posts.

What should you do?

  • Shoot videos vertically
  • Allow footage to be raw, unedited and instantaneous
  • Take considered risks with content (it only lasts 24 hours!)
  • Utilise the Instagram ‘Highlights’ feature to save your best posts

3 – Ads

Gone are the days when organic content was guaranteed to appear in the feed. Social networks are now programmed to be pay-to-play, which is unfortunate for brands as competition becomes fiercer and constant budget increases are required to achieve results. From 2017-2018, Facebook click-through rate (CTR) costs increased by 61% and cost per thousand impressions (CPM) jumped by 112%, with no sign that these price hikes will abate.

Additionally, contempt for ads is growing not only in the social landscape but online as a whole. Customers – especially Millennials and Gen-Z’s – often switch off or use ad blockers to stop irrelevant, annoying and often impertinent ads invading their online space. Although this all sounds very negative, it presents a huge opportunity for brands to invest in creating more impactful, memorable ads that help capture attention and resonate with audiences.

What should you do?

  • Create brand ads that inspire your audience (not every ad needs to push products)
  • Integrate ads with offline activity
  • Make sure all your ads are specifically targeted
  • Test and learn to see what ads work best

4 – Social Shopping

A streamlined customer journey helps boost sales. Social commerce embraces this, helping to simplify the number of steps in the path to purchase, allowing customers to buy when they are most active and engaged. Proving the ROI of social media has been a recurring challenge in the industry, but emerging tech is helping to bridge the gap between social and commerce, providing tangible results.

Several key players have commerce features available, such as Instagram’s ‘Shoppable Posts’, Facebook ‘Marketplace’ and Pinterest’s ‘Buyable Pins’. Although this trend has seen huge popularity in Asia, with 70% of China’s Gen Z’s opting to buy directly from social, the UK’s growth is slightly slower. However, this is no reason to shy away from these features. It’s important to remember these channels are not for ‘shouty’ sales messages – the content you put out should still be interesting and engaging.

What should you do?

  • Set up Instagram Shoppable Posts
  • Use visuals to show how your products will fit into customers’ lives
  • Encourage and share user-generated content showcasing your products
  • Use video to demonstrate benefits and usage tips

5 – Messenger

Messaging app users now outweigh users of traditional social networks; utilising messenger would provide value to customers and thus the business. This spike in usage illustrates a shift in preference from public to private spaces online and highlights the need for brands to be cautious when entering such intimate communications. Some messenger apps, such as WhatsApp, also fall into dark social territory meaning it can be especially hard to track web referrals as they often show as direct traffic.

Messenger’s one-to-one style of communication works perfectly for customer service, helping brands build a personal rapport with customers. However, when you receive high numbers of messages it’s important to have someone monitoring your inbox or, in the spirit of being an early adopter, implement a (rigorously tested) bot. Getting this area of the customer journey correct is imperative for repeat purchases, requiring careful decision making.

What should you do? 

  • Use automated responses for frequently asked questions on messenger
  • Consider a bot that can add extra value for your customers, such as providing opening times or timely order updates
  • Take customer service matters from public spaces to private messages
  • Add shareable links straight from your website to messenger apps that incorporate trackable URL’s for more direct attribution.

 As with everything in our industry, the social tactics you choose should be appropriate for your brand and objectives. If you’d like more advice or guidance with your social strategy, why not get in touch.